We named this site NO CLEAN SINGING for a reason, which is spelled out in excruciating detail on the “ABOUT” page. In a nutshell, the personal tastes of myself and my two sometimes-collaborators veer toward the more soul-shakingly cathartic side of the extreme metal continuum. And for us, that tends to correlate with the absence of clean singing. But from the beginning, we’ve admitted that there are Exceptions to the Rule.
To be brutally honest (which is the only kind of honest we know how to be), there are some songs by some bands that live with us in our memories precisely because the melodies are so unforgettable — particularly when paired up with adrenaline-laced rhythms and blowtorch power. And sometimes those songs have featured clean singing. Sometimes the clean singing is part and parcel of what makes the songs so unforgettable.
There might be a better example of what we’re talking about than Sweden’s Soilwork, but if there is, it ain’t coming to mind. The first notes of songs like “Exile”, “Black Star Deceiver”, and “Stabbing the Drama” start playing, and the whole, epidemically infectious songs immediately come tumbling out of our corroded mental databases like the vivid images of old, close friends.
At the same time, Soilwork has been capable of harder-edged, melodeath marauders like “Needlefeast”, “Follow the Hollow”, “Like the Average Stalker”, and “The Chainheart Machine”. Those songs, and others like them, have tapped into the reptile parts of our brains that just want to headbang, windmill, and slam into shit.
Soilwork’s hallmark ability to straddle that divide between melodic death metal and metalcore, between mayhem and epic melody, is exactly what’s made them an NCS favorite despite all the clean singing.
So, what are we to make of the new Soilwork release, The Panic Broadcast? As a group, the three of us are conflicted. (what we mean? follow along after the jump . . .)
On the one hand, the album has got its fair share of memorable melodic anthems that undoubtedly will take up residence in our heads with past songs like “Exile”. Of those songs, “Two Lives Worth of Reckoning” is probably the strongest contender. It’s got that patented Soilwork blend of riff-laden, hardcore aggression in the verses and a big fucking melodic hook in Speed Strid‘s clean-sung chorus. “Let This River Flow”, “The Thrill”, and “Night Comes Clean” would run a close second, third, and fourth in that race.
On the other hand, despite the advance billing that The Panic Broadcast would be a more aggressive onslaught than Sworn To A Great Divide, there’s no song on the album that you could legitimately classify as melodic death metal, no song that rivals the kind of heated fury in evidence on Natural Born Chaos, The Chainheart Machine, or A Predator’s Portrait, and only one song (“Let This River Flow”) in which Speed Strid mixes in those nasty gutturals of which we know he’s capable.
Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends entirely on your taste. So, for example, my collaborator IntoTheDarkness thinks this album is the worst of the band’s last four, he thinks Strid’s voice has become annoying, and his conclusion is that Soilwork “have just gotten kind of old and boring.”
Speaking for myself, I was a big fan of Sworn To A Great Divide and although I don’t think the new album represents a stylistic departure from that album, I’m cool with it. The melodies are just too ingeniously distinctive to forget, and there’s enough rampaging riffage to feed the hungry jackal in my head.
And there’s one more thing about this album that compensates for the softening of those hard Soilwork edges of old: Co-founding member and guitarist extraordinaire Peter Wichers is back. Every song includes one of his riveting guitar solos, and man, does he set off the fireworks. (He also produced and engineered this album.)
Here are a couple of examples. The first song below is one of the relatively harder-edged offerings on The Panic Broadcast, and it includes one of those ass-kicking solos. It ends with an acoustic outro that seems surprisingly disconnected to the rest of the song — until you realize that it’s just a segue into the acoustic intro to the song that follows. And that second song is a good example of Speed Strid hitting his stride with the clean vocals. Get the chorus out of your head if you can; I can’t.
I mentioned that Soilwork has been an NCS favorite for a long time, and one reason for that is the live show all three of us witnessed the last time they passed through Seattle. It was fucking epic. And the planets are in alignment again, because Soilwork is again touring the U.S. and Canada, with a scheduled stop on July 27 here in the Emerald City. Although we’re conflicted about the new album, we will sure as fuck be in the audience on July 27.
For the full list of tour dates and places, visit their MySpace page (here).
And let us know what you think of this album. In addition to the two songs we’ve put up for you to hear on this site, two more are available on the band’s MySpace.
P.S. The CD includes not only the very cool cover art featured at the top of this post but also a thick, glossy booklet that’s got more eye-pleasing visuals to accompany the lyrics. The artist who should take a bow is a Polish-born Swede named Bartosz Nalezinski.